Court dismisses libel case vs televangelist
MANILA, Philippines—The Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Rizal province has dismissed a libel case filed against controversial evangelist Eliseo “Bro. Eli” Soriano in 2001 for failure of the complainants to prove that there was malice involved.
In a recent eight-page decision, Judge Josephine Zarate Fernandez of the Rizal RTC said the complainants, headed by Bernardo Santiago, failed to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that there was malice in the statements purportedly uttered by Soriano in his televised broadcast on Sept. 7, 2001.
Malice is one of the four elements of libel that must be sufficiently satisfied for the case to succeed.
The three others include the allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another, publication of the charge and identity of the person defamed. The absence of any one of these elements will not make the case prosper.
Soriano, who is referred to as Bro. Eli by his constituents, is the presiding minister of the Members Church of God International or “Ang Dating Daan,” as known by the public, for its flagship radio-TV program.
It was one of the series of charges and countercharges between Soriano and his critics, including Bernardo who, according to Soriano, was earlier “excommunicated” and expelled from their congregation allegedly for adultery. The former subsequently transferred his allegiance to the Iglesia ni Cristo.
The charges include libel, attempted murder and rape. Most of the charges have been dismissed for lack of evidence.